The brain is a sophisticated engine working 24/7 and gets its fuel from what we eat. Healthy food equals premium fuel. Anything less than premium can be damaging. So poor nutrition can have negative consequences on the brain’s structure and function, including mood.
Of course, researchers aren’t done investigating causes and effects. But some amazing results are in. Here are a few that link a healthy diet to a healthy brain:
Probiotics may prevent brain damage
Time to stock up on the fermented food of your choice. Is it pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha? These are natural sources of probiotics. Not a fan? Then you should at least try, or have tried, yogurt for breakfast.
There are several reasons you must make probiotics-rich foods part of your diet. One of them is that probiotics can prevent tissue damage by reducing free radicals and inflammation. Scientists are looking at probiotics to prevent or reduce brain tissue injury, specifically in patients at risk of stroke. On top of this therapeutic benefit, you can also expect positive effects on anxiety and stress levels.
Fermented stuff means unprocessed, so it’s a good starting point for those who want to eat clean. Once you get the kick out of it, you might also realize it’s just as good as other healthy options. And that these foods have a pleasant taste after all.
Higher intake of nutrient-dense foods can reduce the risk for mental disorders
Your Western diet of fast food and sugary drinks may be putting you at risk of depression. To be clear, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates are not the only reason for the genesis of the disorder. But piling evidence shows they are partly to blame.
The good news is that increasing data also support the reverse. Consuming nutrient-dense foods can lower your chances of getting depression. So go nuts over traditional staples like fruits and vegetables. And do not forget whole grains and fish. Come to think of it, these are the A-listers on any health convert’s list.
Interestingly, studies that link diet to cognitive health also involve whatever is happening in the gut. Its microbiome can have an impact on the brain, specifically the hippocampus, which regulates our mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids boost learning and memory
You might have caught this fact in some commercial before. But here is a professor of neurosurgery and physiological science at the University of California Los Angeles to give you the science behind it:
“Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory that are found on synapses.”
The professor is Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, and he had really beautiful things to say about omega-3 fatty acids in this article. But the most fascinating of all is that your food choices can affect your grandkids’ brain molecules and synapses. So, do you want descendants who perform and behave well in school? The secret can be in your balanced diet. Isn’t that a nice food for thought?
And for those who are not sure, a variety of foods contain omega-3s. Some examples would be salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, walnut, chia seeds, soybean oil, and some fortified foods like eggs, milk, and juices (check the label).
Flavonoids enhance cognitive function
We know that scientists test their hypotheses on lab rats first. And there are those who have discovered that flavonoids, together with exercise, promote cognitive enhancement in rodents. These phytonutrients also turn out to improve cognitive function in the elderly. This may be due to the increased blood flow to the brain.
Further, their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may lower the risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease in older people.
This is where it gets more fun for you. You can get your flavonoid fix from dark chocolate. Red wine has a high content of flavonoids, too. Add to your options green tea, Ginkgo tree, citrus fruits, cocoa, and other fruits and vegetables.
Avocados promote healthy blood flow
Yes, you may have found another reason to spend on your favorite natural food. Apparently, this fatty fruit contains monounsaturated fat. In turn, this component promotes healthy blood flow in the brain. Just watch your serving, though, as avocados are high in calories. We advise alternating them with other brain foods.
The closest in terms of the effects are blueberries. These are said to help you live long and maintain vitality. You can have them in any of their forms, fresh or dried or frozen.
Other brain foods to try are pomegranate juice, freshly-brewed tea, and beans. A few choices overlap, like salmon, nuts, whole grains, and dark chocolate. We should remind you about that saying about moderation, though.
Healthier diets link to large brain volumes
Together, the components of a healthy diet seem to have an effect on brain size. A study conducted in the Netherlands over 10 years found that people who observed healthier diets similar to the Mediterranean diet “showed larger total brain volume… [and] had more grey and white matter, which is a way of measuring the amount of nerve density in the brain.” Their hippocampi were also larger.
For those who have no idea, the Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based. Whole grains and fish are cooked the traditional Mediterranean way.
As for the findings, the researchers believed their study could fit into the bigger context of linking diet to brain disorders.
So there you have it. Most of the things shared here are backed by science. Or at least they can be traced to careful investigations by academics. Perhaps, they might reinforce what you already know about healthy eating. But now you can actually name the benefits for your brain. Moving forward, you can choose only premium fuel for your engine.